All these things are aging …
… celebrating my 50th birthday this coming weekend!
Although my mom is trying hard to pretend this is not happening, I’m actually excited about it.
I spend most of my time with people older than I am – both clients and friends – and some part of me feels like a legitimate member of the club now.
I’ve always looked younger than my age, and I want my clients to know I really do understand a few things about aging. To them I’m still a baby, since they have 10, 15 and 20 years more experience with the aging process than I do.
Still, I know what it means to wake up “one day” (as if someone waved the opposite of fairy dust overnight) and find that things don’t work quite like they used to.
I used to jump out of bed at oh-dark-thirty; now it takes a while for things to loosen up. I used to be able to eat anything without gastric distress; now my digestive system is not so robust. I used to be the one who opened jars for other people; now I’m the one who needs help (some days – thanks to arthritis).
And guess what? This is an indisputable fact of all life forms: Everything ages. (Sort of like that kids’ book, Everyone Poops.)
Do you like being alive?
Gail Kohn, who heads the effort to make Washington, D.C. a more aging-friendly city, has a saying: ”Everyone’s aging from the time they are in utero.” From the moment you begin life, you are aging. The only way around this is … well, not to be alive!
One big difference between humans and other life forms is we think nature’s laws don’t apply to us. We’re shocked that we are “suddenly” less flexible, that it takes longer to come alive in the morning, that our hair turns gray, that we can’t just neglect our bodies for months (years?) and then go play basketball with the kids or rake the leaves without getting hurt. How dare this happen to us! Such betrayal from our bodies!
Whose body is this?
This is something I hear from prospective clients so often I can finish the script:
“Every time I try to get active, I hurt something. I don’t know what happened, but returning to activity is not the same as when I was younger.”
Sometimes I also hear this:
From the 50+ crowd: “I want to be able to (fill in the blank), like when I was 20.”
From the 60+ crowd: “I want to be able to (fill in the blank), like when I was 40″.
After I stop laughing and apologize for leaving my magic wand at home, we start the conversation about how bodies change and we need to approach things a little differently now.
The only way to move through this aging thing gracefully is to acknowledge and respect it.
Maybe I, too, would be resisting the aging process if I didn’t have such a drastic experience with my degenerated hip and its ultimate replacement in 2013. For about a year, I was almost unrecognizable to myself, feeling trapped in a body that not only robbed me of my beloved athletic life, but could barely get me through the grocery store without collapse.
Things got better once I became more friendly with my body, more appreciative of all the things it DOES do, despite the fact that I wear it out.
We need to respect that this life form we live inside of – like all other life forms – changes as it gets older. That doesn’t mean we need to stop moving. In fact, quite the opposite. We need to keep moving (or get moving), but do it mindfully, considerately, in ways that make our bodies feel good, not badgered.
Back to me
One thing I’ll be doing this weekend of my 50th birthday is walking on a nice, warm beach in Florida. In the old days I would have run, and not too long ago I would have pouted because running is not allowed – or at least not condoned – for me anymore. But how can I complain when my body will take me as far along the beach as I want to go?
Extras – Just for fun
Here are a couple of aging heroes: I’d love to “grow up” to be like this guy, a 70-something who keeps himself active on his own homemade playground, or this fascinating outlier, the world’s oldest (96 year-old) yoga instructor.
Here is a more typical American, a journalist who’s chronicling her approach to her 60th birthday. Of the 6 things she’s committed to this year, five involve taking better care of her body, mostly so she can keep it moving into the future.
And that’s the point (if there is one in this rambling). There’s no sense in resisting the aging process, because you can’t escape it, no matter what lies you (and the advertising agencies) tell yourself. Get friendly with it and proceed accordingly. After all, the only alternative you have to aging is … well, you know, not being alive.
My birthday, Your present
Cheer up: If you’re celebrating a birthday with a zero at the end (starting with 50), I have a gift for you! Check it out here. I’ll be happy to deliver when I return from the beach!